In the USA....
The continuing destruction of the USA by it's "Supreme" Court ...
June 25, 2013Supreme Court Invalidates Key Part of Voting Rights Act
By ADAM LIPTAK
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Tuesday effectively struck down the heart of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by a 5-to-4 vote, freeing nine states, mostly in the South, to change their election laws without advance federal approval.
The court divided along ideological lines, and the two sides drew sharply different lessons from the history of the civil rights movement and the nation’s progress in rooting out racial discrimination in voting. At the core of the disagreement was whether racial minorities continued to face barriers to voting in states with a history of discrimination.
“Our country has changed,” Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote for the majority. “While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions.”
The decision will have immediate practical consequences. Texas announced shortly after the decision that a voter identification law that had been blocked would go into effect immediately, and that redistricting maps there would no longer need federal approval. Changes in voting procedures in the places that had been covered by the law, including ones concerning restrictions on early voting, will now be subject only to after-the-fact litigation.
President Obama, whose election as the nation’s first black president was cited by critics of the law as evidence that it was no longer needed, said he was “deeply disappointed” by the ruling.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg summarized her dissent from the bench, an unusual move and a sign of deep disagreement. She cited the words of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and said his legacy and the nation’s commitment to justice had been “disserved by today’s decision.”
She said the focus of the Voting Rights Act had properly changed from “first-generation barriers to ballot access” to “second-generation barriers” like racial gerrymandering and laws requiring at-large voting in places with a sizable black minority. She said the law had been effective in thwarting such efforts.
The law had applied to nine states — Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and to scores of counties and municipalities in other states, including Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx.
Chief Justice Roberts wrote that Congress remained free to try to impose federal oversight on states where voting rights were at risk, but must do so based on contemporary data. But the chances that the current Congress could reach agreement on where federal oversight is required are small, most analysts say.
Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined the majority opinion. Justice Ginsburg was joined in dissent by Justices Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.
The majority held that the coverage formula in Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, originally passed in 1965 and most recently updated by Congress in 1975, was unconstitutional. The section determined which states must receive clearance from the Justice Department or a federal court in Washington before they made minor changes to voting procedures, like moving a polling place, or major ones, like redrawing electoral districts.
Section 5, which sets out the preclearance requirement, was originally scheduled to expire in five years. Congress repeatedly extended it: for five years in 1970, seven years in 1975, and 25 years in 1982. Congress renewed the act in 2006 after holding extensive hearings on the persistence of racial discrimination at the polls, again extending the preclearance requirement for 25 years. But it relied on data from the 1975 reauthorization to decide which states and localities were covered.
The current coverage system, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, is “based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day.”
“Congress — if it is to divide the states — must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions,” he wrote. “It cannot simply rely on the past.”
The decision did not strike down Section 5, but without Section 4, the later section is without significance — unless Congress passes a new bill for determining which states would be covered.
It was hardly clear, at any rate, that the court’s conservative majority would uphold Section 5 if the question returned to the court in the unlikely event that Congress enacted a new coverage formula. In a concurrence, Justice Thomas called for striking down Section 5 immediately, saying that the majority opinion had provided the reasons and had merely left “the inevitable conclusion unstated.”
The Supreme Court had repeatedly upheld the law in earlier decisions, saying that the preclearance requirement was an effective tool to combat the legacy of lawless conduct by Southern officials bent on denying voting rights to blacks.
Critics of Section 5 say it is a unique federal intrusion on state sovereignty and a badge of shame for the affected jurisdictions that is no longer justified.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was one of the towering legislative achievements of the civil rights movement, and Chief Justice Roberts said its “strong medicine” was the right response to “entrenched racial discrimination.” When it was first enacted, he said, black voter registration stood at 6.4 percent in Mississippi, and the gap between black and white registration rates was more than 60 percentage points.
In the 2004 election, the last before the law was reauthorized, the black registration rate in Mississippi was 76 percent, almost four percentage points higher than the white rate. In the 2012 election, Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “African-American voter turnout exceeded white voter turnout in five of the six states originally covered by Section 5.”
The chief justice recalled the Freedom Summer of 1964, when the civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner were murdered near Philadelphia, Miss., while seeking to register black voters. He mentioned Bloody Sunday in 1965, when police officers beat marchers in Selma, Ala.
“Today,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “both of those towns are governed by African-American mayors. Problems remain in these states and others, but there is no denying that, due to the Voting Rights Act, our nation has made great strides.”
Justice Ginsburg, in her dissent from the bench, drew a different lesson from those events, drawing on the words of Dr. King.
“The great man who led the march from Selma to Montgomery and there called for the passage of the Voting Rights Act foresaw progress, even in Alabama,” she said. “ ‘The arc of the moral universe is long,’ he said, but ‘it bends toward justice,’ if there is a steadfast commitment to see the task through to completion.”
In her written dissent, Justice Ginsburg said that Congress was the right body to decide whether the law was still needed and where. Congress reauthorized the law in 2006 by large majorities; the vote was 390 to 33 in the House and unanimous in the Senate. President George W. Bush, a Republican, signed the bill into law, saying it was “an example of our continued commitment to a united America where every person is valued and treated with dignity and respect.”
The Supreme Court considered the constitutionality of the 2006 extension of the law in a 2009 decision, Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District Number One v. Holder. But it avoided answering the central question, and it seemed to give Congress an opportunity to make adjustments. Congress, Chief Justice Roberts noted on Tuesday, did not respond.
Justice Ginsburg suggested in her dissent that an era had drawn to a close with the court’s decision on the Voting Rights Act, in Shelby County v. Holder, No. 12-96.
“Beyond question, the V.R.A. is no ordinary legislation,” she wrote. “It is extraordinary because Congress embarked on a mission long delayed and of extraordinary importance: to realize the purpose and promise of the Fifteenth Amendment,” the Reconstruction-era amendment that barred racial discrimination in voting and authorized Congress to enforce it.
“For a half century,” she wrote, “a concerted effort has been made to end racial discrimination in voting. Thanks to the Voting Rights Act, progress once the subject of a dream has been achieved and continues to be made.”
“The court errs egregiously,” she concluded, “by overriding Congress’s decision.”
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: June 25, 2013
An earlier version of this article misstated the name of a civil rights worker murdered in 1964. He was Michael Schwerner, not Schwermer.
*********Texas to immediately enact voter ID law following Supreme Court ruling
By Ed Pilkington, The Guardian
Tuesday, June 25, 2013 20:47 EDT
Officials in Texas said they would rush ahead with a controversial voter ID law that critics say will make it more difficult for ethnic minority citizens to vote, hours after the US supreme court released them from anti-discrimination constraints that have been in place for almost half a century.
The Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, declared that in the light of the supreme court’s judgment striking down a key element of the 1965 Voting Rights Act he was implementing instantly the voter ID law that had previously blocked by the Obama administration. “With today’s decision, the state’s voter ID law will take effect immediately. Photo identification will now be required when voting in elections in Texas.”
The provocative speed with which Texas has raced to embrace its new freedoms underlines the high-stakes nature of the supreme court ruling. Civil rights leaders declared the judgment to be a major setback to the fight against race discrimination in the south that has been a running sore in the US since the civil war. “This is devastating,” the reverend Al Sharpton told MSNBC.
Benjamin Todd Jealous, president of the NAACP, called the outcome “outrageous. The court’s majority put politics over decades of precedent and the rights of voters. We are more vulnerable to the flood of attacks we have seen in recent years.”
Experts in voting rights laws warned that the supreme court’s 5-to-4 majority ruling would encourage local jurisdictions such as Texas to implement measures that could disenfranchise minority voters. Under the now moribund section four of the Voting Rights Act, Texas and eight other mainly southern states as well as counties in other parts of the country, were listed as being subject to “pre-clearance” – in other words, they were barred from tampering with electoral procedures without prior federal approval.
Research by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University has shown that pre-clearance has consistently protected minority voters from discrimination. In the past 15 years, Brennan found, the Justice Department has blocked election changes from the listed jurisdictions 86 times, 43 of those in the past decade.
Myrna Pérez, author of the Brennan report, said that the most dangerous changes that could happen now were the invisible ones. “The biggest threats could come from small town officials making changes without any public notice or scrutiny – canceling an election, say, or moving the location of a polling station a week before election day.”
She added: “We will be asking people to keep vigilant.”
The Texas voter ID law was blocked by a federal court under the Voting Rights Act last August. The court found that the requirement to show photo identification before casting a ballot would have imposed “strict, unforgiving burdens” on poor minority voters and the cost of the scheme would have fallen disproportionately on blacks and Hispanics.
The Department of Justice pointed out that hundreds of thousands of registered voters in Texas were without the necessary identification and were thus at risk of disenfranchisement. A disproportionate number were Latino.
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, dissenting from the ruling, highlighted a paradox at the heart of the majority opinion: “In the court’s view, the very success of section five of the Voting Rights Act demands its dormancy”.
Pamela Karlan, a professor at Stanford law school who advised the leadership of the bipartisan House judiciary committee in this case, likened the 5-4 ruling to a doctor telling a patient that their treatment had been so successful it could now be ended. “The court is saying: ‘You can stop taking your medicine now.’”
The new question, Karlan added, is what will happen to the patient once the treatment is terminated.
The answer to that question continues to divide America, both within the supreme court itself and in the wider response to its ruling. The majority judgment, written by chief justice John Roberts, focuses on how far the country has come over the past half century since Lyndon Johnson wrestled the act through a resistant Congress.
“Nearly 50 years later, things have changed dramatically. Blatantly discriminatory evasions of federal decrees are rare. And minority candidates hold office at unprecedented levels,” Roberts writes.
The chief justice draws on census information to underline his point. In Alabama, the proportion of black people registered to vote has increased from 19% in 1965 to 73% in 2004; and from 6.7% to 76% in Mississippi.
That rosy view of progress is shared, unsurprisingly, by Shelby County, the predominantly white area of central Alabama that brought the challenge all the way to the supreme court. Frank “Butch” Ellis, who has been Shelby County’s attorney since 1964 when the Voting Rights Act was still being debated, insisted that Alabama at that time “was a different time, a different place, it didn’t resemble what it is now.
“I know there was discrimination in 1964, but I also know that what we were doing then is not a relevant barometer of what we are doing now in 2013. It’s not fair to override our sovereign jurisdiction based on a formula that is almost 50 years old.”
Shelby County voters, who are about 90% white, have in recent years elected black mayors and a black president of the board of education, Ellis said. Pre-clearance he said was expensive and an administrative burden: “We had to go to Washington for pre-clearance just to move a polling station from one church to another church across the street.”
But for Ginsburg, backed by justices Sephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, it is the very success of pre-clearance that underlines why it must be preserved. “The Voting Rights Act has worked to combat voting discrimination where other remedies have been tried and failed,” she writes.
In her dissent, Ginsburg lists some of the insidious changes to voting laws that could now creep back into the American electoral landscape. Under pre-clearance, states including Texas have been blocked from racial gerrymandering by redrawing electoral boundaries in an attempt to create segregated legislative districts.
Other states have been barred from moving to “at-large voting” where the electoral power of minorities is diluted by the overall majority population. A similar dilution effect has been attempted by the discriminatory annexation into city limits of majority white suburbs.
Following the supreme court ruling, section two of the Voting Rights Act has been left in place. This allows for the US government to prosecute local officials anywhere in the country for implementing racially-discriminatory electoral laws.
Opponents of pre-clearance say that section two will be sufficient on its own as a safeguard against future discrimination. But the burden of challenging new electoral laws now shifts from the federal government to the individual voter.
Karlan said that by striking down pre-clearance the supreme court had “shifted the burden away from the perpetrators of discrimination and onto the shoulders of the victims of discrimination. Local minority voters will now have to find a lawyer and go to court – and for many that will be very difficult.”
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013
June 25, 2013An Assault on the Voting Rights Act
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD OF THE NEW YORK TIMES
The conservative majority on the Roberts Court issued another damaging and intellectually dishonest ruling on Tuesday. It eviscerated enforcement of the Voting Rights Act, in which Congress kept the promise of a vote for every citizen. But it did not rule on the constitutional validity of the idea that some places have such strong records of discrimination that they must seek federal approval before they may change their voting rules. Instead, the 5-to-4 ruling usurped Congress’s power and struck down the formula that it has repeatedly reauthorized to determine which states fall into that category.
The Supreme Court invited Congress to rewrite the formula, which has a disingenuous ring. The justices know full well that lawmakers, who failed to expand the coverage formula in 2006, are extremely unlikely to do it now. And so the preclearance rule lies dormant.
The Justice Department is still free to sue jurisdictions over their voting policies after the fact, and should, as often as necessary, because such lawsuits will become an even more important tool to ensure justice. But that is not a long-term substitute for the preclearance rule. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted in her impassioned dissent, such suits have proved to be a less effective tool against politicians determined to find ways block access to the polls. The jurisdictions covered by the preclearance rule are, for the most part, firmly in that category.
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, was right when he said that the formula used to determine the jurisdictions that are covered was written long ago, but, if anything, it is too narrow. Chief Justice Roberts was entirely wrong when he wrote that the states can no longer “be divided into two groups: those with a recent history of voting tests and low voter registration and turnout, and those without those characteristics.”
In 2006, when Congress reauthorized the voting law after extensive hearings, Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., a conservative Republican from Wisconsin, said the formula is not outdated and “states covered are not unfairly punished under the coverage formula.”
Currently, Justice Ginsburg wrote in dissent that Congress, “with overwhelming support in both houses,” had concluded that the preclearance rule should “continue in force, unabated,” because that would “facilitate completion of the impressive gains thus far made; and second, continuance would guard against backsliding.” She said that that decision was “well within Congress’s province to make and should elicit this court’s unstinting approbation.”
Speaking of racially motivated barriers to voting, Justice Ginsburg said: “Early attempts to cope with this vile infection resembled battling the Hydra. Whenever one form of voting discrimination was identified and prohibited, others sprang up in its place.” She added: “When confronting the most constitutionally invidious form of discrimination, and the most fundamental right in our democratic system, Congress’s power to act is at its height.”
The real problem with the invalidated formula, in our view, is that it does not cover all the jurisdictions that have imposed or tried to impose techniques like racially discriminatory voter-identification laws.
Invidious and pervasive voting discrimination has not come to an end, as Chief Justice Roberts suggested with his complaint that “Congress did not use the record it compiled to shape a coverage formula grounded in current conditions.” Congress has compiled a huge record showing that gerrymandering, use of at-large voting in cities with a sizable black minority to eliminate the power of minority votes and other barriers to equality in voting justifies the clearance formula the court struck down as failing to meet “current needs.”
The future of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 now lies in the hands of President Obama and Congress. If we had a federal government that was not paralyzed by partisanship, this ruling would serve as an inspiration to take action. Congressional Democrats would quickly prepare a more expansive formula, and the Republicans who voted for the old formula just seven years ago would support the new one.
President Obama quickly said he was “deeply disappointed” at the ruling and called on Congress to enact a new formula. Tragically, we cannot count on either legislative action or strong follow-through from the White House.
************Democrats vow to restore voting protections after Supreme Court ruling
Tuesday, June 25, 2013 17:36 EDT
By Richard Cowan and Thomas Ferraro
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress on Tuesday vowed to push to restore protections for the voting rights of African Americans and other minorities after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a core provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.
It was unclear whether Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, would provide the support needed for any legislative effort to offset the high-court ruling, which was denounced by Democrats as a setback for civil rights.
The justices ruled 5-4 that Congress had used obsolete reasoning in continuing to force nine states, mainly in the South, to get federal approval if they made changes in election laws affecting blacks and other minorities.
The decision came after recent election cycles in which some states have tried to impose last-minute changes to voting rules. Critics complained those changes were aimed at suppressing the votes of minorities, while backers said they were designed to stop voter fraud.
Obama, a Democrat who in 2009 became the country’s first African American president, decried the Supreme Court ruling and said, “I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls.”
The Voting Rights Act, a centerpiece of the American civil rights movement in the 1960s, was meant to ensure access to the ballot box for minorities, traditional allies of Democrats, in states where such voting rights were considered at risk.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy promised to move quickly to restore the law in the 100-seat, Democratic-led U.S. Senate.
The Supreme Court, Leahy said, had “struck down the core of the most successful piece of civil rights legislation in this nation’s history.” The Vermont Democrat said his panel would hold hearings in July and he would try to fashion a bipartisan bill. But it was unclear how far such a bill might advance.
Senator Charles Schumer of New York, the Senate’s third-ranking Democrat, voiced doubts that Congress could reverse the court ruling.
“As long as Republicans have a majority in the House and Democrats don’t have 60 votes in the Senate,” to end Republican procedural roadblocks, Schumer said, “there will be no (U.S.) preclearance” for changes in state voting laws.
In recent elections, voters in some states have had to suffer through unusually long waits to cast their ballots and other ballot-box problems, which discouraged some from voting.
If any legislation emerges from Congress, it could try to tackle such problems.
Republicans, including House Speaker John Boehner, were largely silent immediately after the court’s ruling.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, asked by reporters later in the day about the Supreme Court ruling, said he had to review it, but added: “America is very different today than it was in the 1960s” amid segregation and election laws aimed at blocking blacks from voting.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, suggested that his state had been treated unfairly since it was among those that had to receive preclearance.
He complained that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder had refused to approve voter identification laws in Texas and South Carolina.
Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on Leahy’s committee, said he was open to trying to address concerns raised by the court about the formula for preclearance.
“The opportunity to vote is one of the most fundamental rights afforded to American citizens. And, as protectors of the Constitution, Congress must defend that right,” said Grassley, who voted for reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 1982 and 2006.
The current version of the law was enacted with overwhelming bipartisan support in Congress in 2006 and signed by Republican President George W. Bush.
House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi denounced the Supreme Court ruling as “a step backward on civil rights,” but said Congress should take it “as a cue” to take additional action itself, as it did in 2006, to bolster the law.
“It is our responsibility to do everything in our power to remove obstacles to voting, to ensure every citizen has the right to vote and every vote is counted as cast,” she said.
(Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Editing by Howard Goller, David Storey and Mohammad Zargham)
************John Lewis: ‘These men’ on the Supreme Court never had to pass a literacy test
By David Edwards
Tuesday, June 25, 2013 14:59 EDT
Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) on Tuesday blasted conservative justices on the United States Supreme Court after they struck down a part of a law intended to prevent the type of voter suppression that he was fighting against when he had his skull fractured during protests in the 1960s.
In a 5 to 4 decision along ideological lines on Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that the heart of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional becauese Congress had not provided adequate justification for subjecting nine mostly southern states to additional federal oversight.
“I was disappointed because what I think what the court did today is stab the Voting Rights Act of 1965 right in its very heart,” Lewis explained to MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “It is a major setback. We may not have people being beaten today, maybe they’re not being denied the right to participate, to register to vote, they’re not being chased by police dogs or trampled by horses. But in the 11 states of the old Confederacy and even in some of the states outside of the South, there has been a systematic, deliberate attempt to take us back to another period.”
“And these men that voted to strip the Voting Rights Act of its power, they never stood in unmovable lines, they never had to pass a so-called literacy test,” he observed. “It took us almost a hundred years to get where we are today. So, will it take another hundred years to fix it, to change it?”
Lewis added that the country was at risk of repeating history.
“My message to the members of the United States Supreme Court is remember, don’t forget our recent history,” he said. “Walk in our shoes. Come and walk in our shoes. Come in walk in the shoes of those three young men that died in Mississippi [while registering black voters in 1964], walk in the shoes of those of us who walked across that bridge on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965.”
“I didn’t think that on that day when President Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act that I would live to see five members of the United States Supreme Court undone what President Johnson did with those pens.”
June 25, 2013Beyond Black and White, New Force Reshapes South
By JONATHAN MARTIN
The Deep South was, quite literally, a black and white world in 1965, when Congress approved the Voting Rights Act, sweeping away barriers that kept African-Americans from the polls.
And the Supreme Court decision on Tuesday, which struck down a key part of the law, is certain to set off a series of skirmishes over voting regulations between the white Republicans who control Southern state legislatures and civil rights groups seeking to maximize black voter clout.
But those who have studied the region closely say that a more unstoppable force is approaching that will alter the power structure throughout the South and upend the understanding of politics there: demographic change.
The states with the highest growth in the Latino population over the last decade are in the South, which is also absorbing an influx of people of all races moving in from other parts of the country.
While most experts expect battles over voting restrictions in the coming years, they say that ultimately those efforts cannot hold back the wave of change that will bring about a multiethnic South.
“All the voter suppression measures in the world aren’t going to be enough to eventually stem this rising tide,” said Representative David E. Price, a veteran North Carolina Democrat and a political scientist by training.
As the region continues to change, Republicans who control legislatures in the South will confront a basic question: how to retain political power when the demographics are no longer on your side.
The temptation in the short term, now that the Supreme Court has significantly relaxed federal oversight, may be to pass laws and gerrymander districts to protect Republican political power and limit the influence of the new more diverse population.
But that could be devastating to the party’s long-term prospects, especially if it is seen as discriminating against the groups that will make up an ever larger share of the future electorate.
The law guaranteeing political equality for blacks was passed nearly a half-century ago, in the wake of the startling images of violence in Selma, Ala. The nationally televised coverage shook America’s conscience and marked what President Lyndon B. Johnson would say in a speech to Congress was a moment where “history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom.”
The act eventually imposed federal oversight over nine states and other jurisdictions — among them, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — requiring them to seek preapproval for election laws, like voter identification measures, redistricting maps and rules related to the mechanics of elections, like polling hours.
The Supreme Court on Tuesday essentially struck down those preapproval requirements, which had deterred states and localities from passing legislation that they knew would meet with resistance from civil rights advocates and result in protracted fights.
Alabama, for example, passed a law in 2011 requiring that voters show photo identification at the polls. The state put off submitting the legislation to the Department of Justice, however — a delay some Democrats attribute to the state’s Republicans waiting for the Supreme Court decision.
But the most meaningful impact of the ruling may be seen in the decade to come, when Southern states — freed from federal preclearance requirements — take up the redrawing of Congressional and legislative seats amid much more complex racial politics than in the days of Jim Crow.
As the white share of the population shrinks, Republican leaders are going to grapple with the same problem their Democratic counterparts faced as whites drifted from their ancestral party in the 1980s and 1990s.
“The South is going to start looking more like California eventually,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.
For years, black and white legislators in the South have agreed to district lines that, thanks to racial packing, create safe seats for both black Democrats and white Republicans. The Obama administration’s Department of Justice approved nearly every Southern redistricting map, written by Republicans, after the 2010 census.
The one exception, Texas, offers a window into what the future may look like in a multiracial South. With almost 90 percent of its growth owing to a mix of new Hispanic, Asian and black voters, Republican legislators in Texas drew new districts in 2011 that were rejected by a federal court as discriminatory because they didn’t sufficiently recognize the political power of the new demographics.
Just as Texas is now, Georgia will, thanks to polyglot Atlanta, eventually become a state where it will be difficult for Republicans to produce a redistricting map that protects their majority in perpetuity without drawing legal challenges.
Georgia’s Hispanic population nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to federal census data. In suburban Atlanta’s Gwinnett County, the most heavily Hispanic locality in the state, the Latino population rose to 162,035 from 64,137.
“The growing nonwhite share of the electorate in Georgia and other Southern states represents a threat to the continued domination of the current majority party, which means that it is in the political interest of the majority party to do whatever it can, whether through control of redistricting or through the enactment of restrictive voter ID laws, to limit the impact of these trends,” said Alan I. Abramowitz, an Emory University political scientist.
State Representative Stacey Abrams of Georgia, the Democratic leader, said such efforts would trigger a backlash.
“They’re going to be tempted to try to take advantage of this, but they risk permanently alienating a population that will eventually be able to take its revenge,” Ms. Abrams said. “Given how quickly our Asian and Latino populations are growing and how much of the electorate they’re going to represent, to constrain their voting power would be a recipe for disaster.”
Ms. Abrams’s Republican counterpart, the House speaker, David Ralston, said the Voting Rights Act decision was an affirmation that his native region “has changed, has matured,” and that his party would demonstrate that by appealing to Georgia’s changing face.
“If we’re going to govern responsibly and lead,” Mr. Ralston said, “then we have to recognize that Georgia is a big state, it’s a diverse state, and it’s a state that’s changing.”
June 26, 2013Supreme Court Could Make History on Same-Sex Marriage, or Not
By ADAM LIPTAK
WASHINGTON — It is usually impossible to say when the Supreme Court will announce any particular decision. There is one exception: On the last day of the term, when the court takes action on every remaining case, the process of elimination supplies the answer.
The last day of the term is Wednesday. The court has yet to issue decisions in two momentous cases on same-sex marriage.
Those facts in combination mean that shortly after 10 a.m. the justices will announce their rulings on challenges to two laws that define marriage to include only unions of a man and a woman.
One case, from New York, concerns the federal Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, which denies federal benefits to gay and lesbian couples married in states that allow such unions.
The other, from California, challenges Proposition 8, the state’s ban on same-sex marriage.
The rulings will come against the backdrop of a rapid shift in public attitudes about same-sex marriage, with recent polls indicating that a majority of Americans support allowing such unions. When the justices heard arguments in the two cases in March, nine states and the District of Columbia had laws allowing same-sex marriage. Since then, three more states have enacted such laws.
The New York case, United States v. Windsor, No. 12-307, challenges the part of the 1996 law that defines marriage as between only a man and a woman for the purposes of more than 1,000 federal laws and programs. (Another part of the law, not before the court, says that states need not recognize same-sex marriages from other states.)
The case concerns two New York City women, Edith Windsor and Thea Clara Spyer, who married in 2007 in Canada. Ms. Spyer died in 2009, and Ms. Windsor inherited her property. The 1996 law did not allow the Internal Revenue Service to treat Ms. Windsor as a surviving spouse, and she faced a tax bill of about $360,000 that would not have applied to a spouse in an opposite-sex marriage.
Ms. Windsor sued, and last year the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in New York, struck down the 1996 law.
Should the justices strike down the law, married same-sex couples would start to receive federal benefits. Should they uphold the law, the current state of affairs for married same-sex couples – Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called it “skim milk marriage” when the case was argued in March – would continue.
No ruling in the case on the 1996 law would require states without same-sex marriage to adopt it.
The case is procedurally tangled. The Obama administration argued that the law is unconstitutional, though it continues to enforce it. House Republicans intervened to defend the law, though it is not clear that they were entitled to represent the interests of the United States.
That leaves the possibility that no party before the Supreme Court had standing to challenge the appeals court’s decision.
The California case, Hollingsworth v. Perry, No. 12-144, was filed in 2009 by Theodore B. Olson and David Boies, two lawyers who were on opposite sides in the Supreme Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore, which settled the 2000 presidential election. The suit, brought on behalf of two same-sex couples, argued that California voters had violated the federal Constitution the previous year when they overrode a decision of the state’s Supreme Court allowing same-sex marriage.
Lower federal courts agreed with Mr. Olson and Mr. Boies, striking down Proposition 8.
The justices have several options in the California case. They could reverse the appeals court, leaving California’s ban on same-sex marriage in place. They could affirm the appeals court’s ruling on a theory that would allow same-sex marriage only in California. Or they could address the broader question of whether the Constitution requires states to allow such marriages.
It is also possible that the court will give no answer on the merits, deciding instead that it was powerless to hear the case because no party before it was entitled to appeal from the decisions of the lower courts. (The California officials who lost in the lower courts declined to appeal. Supporters of the ballot initiative did appeal, but it is not clear that they were entitled to step into the government’s shoes to do so.)
That last option – dismissal on standing grounds, or something similar — would lead to short-term confusion, but many legal experts say they expect it would result in same-sex marriage returning to California in a matter of weeks.
***********Barack Obama announces new measures to tackle climate change - videohttp://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/video/2013/jun/26/barack-obama-climate-change-video
The US president, Barack Obama, announces new plans to tackle climate change, including limiting carbon emissions from power plants. Speaking in Washington on Tuesday, Obama says he will block plans for a Keystone pipeline from Canada if it increases net carbon pollution
*************Obama hints that Keystone XL may be rejected
By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, June 25, 2013 15:47 EDT
President Barack Obama speaks about climate change to an audience at Georgetown University.
Speaking Tuesday morning about his plans to tackle climate change, President Barack Obama said that the controversial Keystone XL pipeline will only be approved if the State Department concludes that it “does not significantly exacerbate the climate problem.”
The president’s comments at Georgetown University on Tuesday are the first he’s made in months about plans for the continent-spanning pipeline that’s already under construction in some southern states. His administration has long been expected to approve the plans, much to the chagrin of his supporters and leading environmentalists. Obama also announced a series of executive actions Tuesday geared toward addressing climate change, which environmentalists largely panned as “modest” half measures that fall short of the minimum requirements to stifle the most severe changes in Earth’s climate.
“I do want to be clear,” Obama said. “Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so will be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward. It’s relevant.”
Speaking to Raw Story, climate activism group 350.org spokesperson Daniel Kessler said Obama’s comments Tuesday reached “11″ on a one-to-ten scale measuring his level of surprise. “Based on the president’s own criteria, it’s very unlikely that he could approve the premise of this pipeline,” he said. “His criteria seems to be if it leads to a net increase of emissions, and everybody — including the industry — thinks this will lead to an increase in emissions.”
Rachel Wolf, a spokesperson for the anti-Keystone group All Risk, No Reward Coalition, reacted similarly. “With this promise to the American people to reject the pipeline if it will increase climate pollution, the President has taken a huge step towards rejecting Keystone XL, given that evidence has already shown that the pipeline will increase GHG emissions and have serious climate consequences,” she told Raw Story in a prepared statement.
The oil this pipeline is meant to carry is Canadian tar sands, which requires a much more energy-intensive process to mine, liquify and transport. It all adds up to about 14 percent more greenhouse gas emissions than average light, sweet crude, according to Scientific American.
Added, Canada has such a large reserve of tar sands, it’s been called the second-largest standing pool of trapped carbon energy left on Earth. Tapping that energy would add massively to greenhouse gas pollution, as the industry is aiming to produce 6 million barrels of tar sands oil per day by 2030. The numbers are so daunting that 29 of the nation’s leading scientists joined together earlier this month and issued an open letter beseeching Obama to turn down the pipeline.
The letter specifically calls out a State Department review that concluded in 2011, finding that the pipeline would not significantly exacerbate the climate crisis. However, critics of that assessment noted that it assumes Canada’s tar sands will be tapped with or without the Keystone XL pipeline’s construction, effectively negating the need to even run the equation on how much trapped carbon could potentially be unleashed.
Media reports later revealed that the State Deptartment allowed pipeline owner TransCanada to screen applicants looking to conduct the environmental impact study. That drew the ire of two members of Congress, who demanded an investigation into allegedly improper relationships between State Department employees and TransCanada lobbyists. That probe is still ongoing at the Office of the Inspector General.
Reacting to the speech, former Vice President Al Gore breathlessly praised the president’s resolve to tackle climate change, calling it “by far the best address on climate by any president ever.”
“I hope the President’s speech will be followed up by a decision to make this challenge a centerpiece of his leadership during his remaining three and a half years in office,” Gore wrote. “The hard truth is that the maximum that now seems politically feasible still falls short of the minimum necessary to actually solve the climate crisis. Continued and constant use of the bully pulpit, determined follow-through on the steps announced today, and additional steps in the months ahead can change the political reality and build a bipartisan consensus for the broader changes that are needed urgently.
June 26, 2013 06:00 AMTX Senate Erupts Into Chaos As GOP Tries to Cheat Their Way To Abortion Ban
Behold, bold Texas Democrats standing for the will of the people. I'll cut straight to the chase and tell you that SB5, the draconian Texas abortion bill that would have closed all but 5 abortion clinics in Texas is dead -- at least for now, though it will be a zombie that rises up if Gov. Rick Perry calls yet another special session.
You can stop there if you want, but if you do, you'll miss all the fun.
About 11 hours into Davis' 13-hour filibuster, Texas Republicans, aided by Lt. Gov. Dewhurst, suspended all belief along with the usual order of the Senate and tried very, very hard to end the filibuster by accusing Davis of bogus violations of the filibuster rule. Under the fiibuster rules, Davis was required to remain on the topic of the bill. When she began to discuss forced ultrasound tests for women seeking abortions, the Republicans ruled it was not germane to the bill, which would have been her third violation and would have led to a vote to end the filibuster.
Democrats began raising points of order, objections, and making motions. Without jumping deep into the weeds here, let's just say they were successfully able to continue the delays until about 10 minutes before midnight. Republicans, on the other hand, decided tossing the regular order was warranted to get this very unpopular piece of legislation passed.
Meanwhile, there were hundreds of Wendy Davis supporters in the upper gallery and hundreds more outside the chamber itself. GOP men were shouting down Democratic women as things heated up. Finally Senator Leticia Van de Putte, who came from her father's funeral in order to oppose the bill, asked what it took for a Democratic woman to be heard over the shouts of Republican men.
The chamber exploded. The video from the last ten minutes is must-see TV. Watching here at home, I was counting down right along with them, because if they did not hold a vote before midnight, the bill was dead.
At 12:02 AM there was a voice vote heard on the live feed. Shortly after that, the AP published a breaking news blurb claiming the bill had passed.
Then this happened:
Yes, your eyes aren't lying. That is evidence that someone changed the official record to backdate the vote, which took place beginning at 12:02 AM on June 26th to before 11:59 PM on June 25th.
That's stealing the vote. Or cheating. Or being a Republican.
Social media is cruel to cheaters, though. There was a YouTube live stream, there was a paper record with a timestamp of 12:02 AM for the vote, there was this image of the date discrepancy, and there were plenty of reporters who put it together and deduced that hijinks were afoot.
Just after 2 AM Texas time, the Senate was called into a caucus. After some discussion, this flew across Twitter:
RT @becca_aa: It's officially official, #SB5 did not pass; Senators on the floor to make public announcement soon #txlege
— Texas Tribune (@TexasTribune) June 26, 2013
In an ironic and delicious twist, another tweet mentioned the fact that in 48 hours or so, Texas Gov. Rick Perry will address the National Right to Life Convention in Dallas.
Lt. Governor Dewhurst now haz a sad:
Without recognizing Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, for a motion to adjourn Sine Die, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst stepped down from the dais after ruling that time had expired on SB 5, telling the senators, "It's been fun, but, um, see ya soon."
He then told reporters that "an unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics" derailed legislation that was designed to protect women and babies.
He said he was "very frustrated."
"I didn't lose control of what we were doing," he told reporters. "We had an unruly mob."
Memo to Lt. Gov Dewhurst: Expect more angry mobs as long as you threaten women's health and their constitutional rights. It's the Texas way. Respect everyone's rights, and the mob leaves you alone.
Texas women won this round because they rose up and refused to be bullied by Republicans, but it's not really dead. Perry is expected to call another special session, because important redistricting measures and transportation bills did not come to the floor as a result of the filibuster. But for this night, real democracy happened.
This feels like a tipping point for Texas. Watching a small woman in running shoes and a back brace stand up for thirteen hours to those bullying Republican Senators in order to make sure women in Texas were not stripped of their rights was inspiring. It was real, and it's something Washington DC should consider when they play their stupid non-filibuster filibuster games on a daily basis. Last night, a small minority of scrappy Democrats backed by thousands of observers and fans defeated corrupt Republicans. That's a reason to celebrate.
Senator Wendy Davis is destined for great things. Her colleague and partner in this venture, Senator Kirk Watson (D-Austin) was a terrific understudy for her. His 40-minute long argument for appealing the decision on the third point of order, done in a very, very slow Texas drawl, was a sight to behold.
Because of Republicans' behavior in front of Texas and the rest of America, it's quite likely Texas really will turn blue, and sooner rather than later. Stay tuned, this is just the beginning.
*************‘Unruly mob’ shouts abortion bill to death in Texas
By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, June 26, 2013 9:16 EDT
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst (R) called them an “unruly mob,” but last night with just minutes to go, hundreds of Texas women finished out a filibuster started 11 hours earlier by Sen. Wendy Davis (D), preventing a final vote from taking place on a massive anti-abortion bill by literally shouting it to death as the special session ended.
S.B. 5 would have forced all but five of the state’s abortion clinics to close by 2014, and would have banned all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy without exception for rape or incest. Demonstrators spent days stacking the Texas legislature as final authorization neared, and it all came down to whether Republicans could ram it through before midnight Wednesday.
It initially appeared that the GOP succeeded; even The Associated Press reported that they had. But what happened Tuesday night was a far stranger thing than a simple up or down vote.
After Republicans called three points of order on Davis, citing her for wearing a back brace and allegedly going “off topic” by mentioning sonograms and Planned Parenthood, it looked like passage was all but certain. A furious debate about technicalities in Roberts Rules of Order ensued as Davis remained standing, a condition of carrying the filibuster.
With just under 15 minutes to go before midnight, Sen. Leticia Van De Putte (D) rose with a point of order that was initially ignored by the House speaker in favor of a male Republican’s point. But Van De Putte, who left from planning her father’s funeral to be in the legislature Tuesday night, refused to sit down and walk away.
When she was finally recognized for a parliamentary inquiry moments later, she uttered the words that effectively sealed the fate of S.B. 5. “Mr. President, parliamentary inquiry,” Van De Putte said. “At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over the male colleagues in the room?”
The chamber gallery, full of hundreds of pro-choice demonstrators wearing burnt orange, erupted in screams and cheers. Seconds later, the thunderous cries began echoing throughout the whole Capitol as thousands outside the gallery learned what was happening, sending cheers down the three-story line of protesters waiting to get into the Senate chamber. It wasn’t the crowd’s first outburst, either — Dewhurst openly threatened earlier in the evening to “clear the gallery” if the crowd became noisy again — but protesters just kept shouting even after police began taking them out of the chamber.
Online, over 165,000 people were watching the official live stream from the Texas Senate as protesters spent the rest of the special session literally screaming the bill to death, causing such a cacophony in the Senate that even when Republicans rushed to the front to pass the vote before midnight, some senators said they weren’t sure what they were voting on.
The Senate’s official timekeeper initially placed the vote as taking place just minutes after midnight on June 26, but then the official record was amended to make it appear the vote passed just before, on June 25. For the next two hours, confusion dominated online reports as headlines came galloping in announcing a Republican victory. The shouting and chanting continued for hours in the Capitol rotunda and out on the front lawn until Davis emerged and told the crowd that it appeared the bill had indeed failed.
Dewhurst confirmed Davis’s assessment just after 3 a.m., according to The Austin American Statesman, telling reporters that it failed because “an unruly mob, using Occupy Wall Street tactics, disrupted the Senate from protecting unborn babies.” He added from the floor of the Senate: “It’s been fun, but, uh, see you soon.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who’s said he wants to completely revoke the right to abortion, could technically call another special session right away and set Republicans to work on whatever legislation he deems to be an “emergency.” If he does, it’s not clear that Democrats will be able to stop the bill from passage, even if they stage another filibuster.
Still, on the other side of the aisle, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa seemed pleased with the results, sending a mass email declaring victory even before the official time of Wednesday’s vote was nailed down. “We don’t know what will happen by the morning, and we don’t know yet if this bill has passed,” he wrote. “But no matter what happens, we have already won. Texas will never be the same again.”
click to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=dnDO9nifI2M
click to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NIAIb1m9xMM
***********Texas Democratic Party chair: Sen. Wendy Davis should run for governor
By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, June 26, 2013 0:46 EDT
Update: Davis filibuster succeeds amid chaos as Republicans fail to legally pass anti-abortion bill
Gilberto Hinojosa, chairman of the Texas Democratic Party, said he hopes that Sen. Wendy Davis (d), who conducted a 10-hour filibuster against a bill that would close all but five abortion clinics in the state and ban all abortions after 20 weeks, will run for statewide office. Speaking to Raw Story from the Texas Capitol on Tuesday night, Hinojosa said she would likely win a bid for the governor’s office thanks to her marathon filibuster.
“I’m so proud of her effort and what she’s showed Texas,” Hinojosa said. “Women deserve, in this state, to be treated with dignity. I think that she’s taken it to the Republicans in a way that was not expected. She has put them to shame and made us all very, very, very proud.”
Asked about her potential political future, Hinojosa cracked a wide grin. “Wendy is not only extremely intelligent and articulate, she’s great on the issues and she’s got a great personal story — a single mother who made it out of a life of poverty to go to Harvard law school, then gets elected to the city council and the Texas Senate by beating an incumbent Republican,” he said. “She is someone that can really, really excite people across the state of Texas, who really shows true leadership.”
“She doesn’t play games or worry about what’s going to get her votes,” Hinojosa continued. “She does what she believes is right. We’ve been sorely lacking that kind of leadership in the state of Texas for more than 20 years. So, yeah. I’m hoping she runs for statewide office, and I know that should she decide to, all of these women and men that are here today, young and old, will work their hearts out for her. She’d probably get elected governor, or whatever other office she wants to run for.”
Davis’s filibuster unceremoniously ended just after 10 p.m. CST when Republicans cited her on a third “point of order” for allegedly going off-topic by mentioning Planned Parenthood in her filibuster of S.B. 5. At the time of this writing, fellow Texas Democrats were pulling out all the stops to block a full vote on S.B. 5 by using arcane parliamentary tactics to delay until midnight, when the special session officially ends.
S.B. 5 would ban all abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy — well before medical experts say a fetus is viable outside the womb — and force all but five of the abortion clinics in Texas to shut their doors by 2014.
If they succeed, it’s still possible that the bill could come up again in the days to follow if Gov. Rick Perry (R) decides to call another special session, which he could do tomorrow if he desires. Perry initially placed the anti-abortion measure on the legislature’s docket as an “emergency” provision, and said at the time he would like to see the right to abortion completely revoked in the state.